Learning can take many forms. Most of us are familiar with, and can clearly define, what constitutes a formal learning engagement. Be it in a classroom or corporate boardroom, a formal learning event is pretty easy to recognize.
But what about informal learning? Could it be even more valuable to an organization than formal ones?
By definition, informal learning is an unofficial, unscheduled, and impromptu way that many people learn today. It usually takes the form of reading articles, books, viewing online courses in spare time, or going to a seminar rather than registering into a formal course.
Informal learning is growing because it is usually efficient, autonomous, relevant, accessible, and flexible.
People love learning. It is easy to open up a web-browser and search for a topic to find out more information. One survey found that nine out of 10 people indicated they enjoyed learning.
Interestingly, in this same survey nearly 40% of working professionals haven’t taken a single course of any type since they were in college.
What is likely happening is that people are going about learning in informal methods, which are more difficult to measure. In the effort to research this further, survey participants were asked how many days it had been since they learned something from an article, book, or video. Roughly 51% indicated that they had learned something that very day, with another 20% reported to have learned something as early as the day prior.
Knowing that people will actively seek out informal learning opportunities, organizations would do well to create such avenues, and to even use the informal process with their own courses.
This isn’t to say that all learning must be informal. In fact, some content requires more traditional delivery. However, knowing how people learn, and how likely they are to seek out learning opportunities, is key to maximizing the potential of any internal learning program.